How to do Veganuary

As many of us use January as a way to kick-off our New Year’s resolutions and make healthy alterations to our lifestyles, the month-long challenge of Veganuary has only grown in popularity over the years.

With over half a million people estimated to have taken part during the 2021 campaign, learning more about Veganuary and how to properly get involved has never been more important.

What is Veganuary?

Veganuary is a 31-day challenge during January that encourages participants to give up meat and animal products from their diet.

The month aims to promote the many benefits of veganism, with a particular focus on the ethical and environmental impacts of meat and dairy.

Those who take part are often encouraged to cook vegan food from scratch, learning more about the different types of fruits, vegetables, and pulses that are key in a vegan diet.

Others also use the month as an opportunity to discover more about the concept of veganism and other vegan-friendly lifestyle changes you can make.

Is a vegan diet better for the environment?

Planet earth globe view from space showing realistic earth surface and world map as in outer space point of view .

The environmental impact of eating meat is now common-knowledge – the red meat industry, in particular, is considered one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, due in part to the methane that livestock release.

Some studies have suggested that the carbon footprint of vegans is around 100% less than those who regularly eat meat, and a plant-based diet has even been recommended by UN experts as a means to fight climate change.

Huge amounts of land are used in meat farming, while even more space is required to grow the food to feed these animals. This contributes to the growing decline of the world’s forests, releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroying vital ecosystems.

Foods typically found in a vegan diet use less space, energy and, overall, come with a smaller carbon footprint. It is for these reasons that a vegan diet is considered better for the environment.

How to do Veganuary

Taking part in the vegan challenge this year? Great!

While changing your eating habits may seem daunting, there are a few handy tips and tricks to ensure you have a successful month and do Veganuary right.

Beating meat and dairy cravings

If this is your first time eliminating animal products from your diet, it’s likely that at some point over the month, you’ll be tempted by meat or dairy.

Thankfully, there are loads of alternatives to help curb those cravings. The range of meat and dairy substitutes is only growing, with big-name brands now providing vegan-friendly versions of their products.

When those cravings hit, head down to your nearest supermarket and try the likes of vegan bacon, cheese, or even creamy vegan chocolate.

It’s also important not to be derailed if you slip up over Veganuary. The reasons you have for taking part in the month are still valid, and you may even find that the more vegan foods you try, the less you will want the non-vegan versions.

Enjoying a healthy vegan diet

Just like non-vegan food, there are plenty of unhealthy vegan alternatives, mostly in the form of ready meals and sweet treats.

While these are OK to indulge in every once in a while, make sure your Veganuary is full of healthy vegan food choices as well. This includes getting a proper amount of fruit and vegetables, and ensuring you are eating a good amount of protein from sources like pulses and nuts.

If your diet is usually very meat and dairy heavy, you may also find that vitamins and supplements are needed. Vitamin B12 is a common addition to most vegan diets, as it is usually only found in animal products. Calcium, a nutrient found in dairy, is another suggested supplement.

Accidentally vegan treats

You may be surprised to learn that many of your household favourite foods are ‘accidentally’ vegan. This makes transitioning to full veganism for the month much easier, and the supermarket shop slightly less overwhelming.

Products include:

  • Oreo biscuits
  • Marmite
  • Starburst sweets
  • Guinness
  • Some flavours of Doritos crisps
  • Cadbury Bourneville dark chocolate
  • Popcorn
  • Hash browns
  • Tesco Bourbon biscuits
  • And many more

Quick and cheap vegan meals

Hot vegan chili with Hokkaido pumpkin from the vegan cuisine with lime and coriander served with slices of a wholemeal roll

Many use Veganuary as a means of getting creative in the kitchen and experimenting with different Veganuary recipes – and that doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank or spending hours by the hob.

Most vegan recipes are actually quicker to prepare than their meat counterparts, and things like pulses and vegetables are considerably cheaper too.

Tasty bean chillis are a staple for many vegan diets and can be easily adapted to include all your favourite vegetables and spices.

For a quick midweek meal, why not try making a meatless fajita, using seasoned tofu instead of chicken or beef.

Your home comforts can also be easily made vegan – this shepherd’s pie recipe is packed full of vegetables and fresh herbs and uses canned chickpeas as its source of protein instead.

Other ways to take part in Veganuary

Being vegan isn’t only about your diet. Veganuary is a great way to discover all the other ways you can live a vegan lifestyle.

Many people go vegan for environmental reasons, so reducing their carbon footprint in other ways is also important. Whether by eating only seasonal produce, cutting down on air travel, or switching to an electric car, caring for the planet, and being vegan often go hand in hand.

Animal welfare is another major reason people give for following a vegan diet. Use Veganuary as a way to read up on the reality of the meat and dairy industries, so you can make your own dietary decisions.

Shopping ethically is also an important part of the vegan ethos. You may be surprised to find that your beauty, clothing, or cleaning products are not vegan-friendly. Some may be tested on animals, while others may contain animal products. Do some research on some vegan-friendly brands and ensure your Veganuary has a lasting impact.

Could your returned items end up in landfill?

With our need for online shopping only increasing, many of us have begun to question the environmental impact of returning our unwanted items.

Whether items purchased in haste, arriving in the wrong size, or are simply victims of a changed mind, it’s estimated that at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned – far more than the 8.89% taken back to physical retailers.

If the product isn’t faulty, we can be forgiven for thinking that our unwanted items are popped back in the warehouse ready for a new (hopefully more loving) buyer. Yet in fact, many returned, perfectly saleable goods, are tossed into landfill sites around the globe.

Is online shopping eco-friendly?

The argument for whether or not online shopping is eco-friendly is a tricky one.

On the one hand, shopping online opens us up to a world of independent businesses that usually have clear sustainability goals. Plastic-free products and vegan-friendly items are found in abundance online, while the absence of the physical shop allows retailers to invest more in sustainable practices and consider their environmental impact.

On the other side of the fence, these goods sometimes carry a large footprint due to the shipping and manufacturing process. Online shopping as a whole has generally meant that people buy more things, often more than they need, and many items are wasted or returned.

What happens to returned items?

If a product isn’t faulty and you’re returning it unused, it makes sense for it to simply be repackaged and resold by the retailer once more… right?

Sadly, it isn’t as straightforward as that. Most companies don’t have the logistics in place to handle an unwanted return, as these are handled differently to faulty or imperfect items.

For many, it is more cost-efficient to sell the product cheaply to discounters via a web of worldwide shipping or throw it straight into landfill. Both options increase the carbon footprint of the product.

Clothes

In the UK, we buy more clothes per person than any other country across Europe. Clothes are some of the most common items bought online, with many of us ordering outfit options and multiple sizes with an intention to return the unwanted.

While this may seem like a good workaround to the absence of changing rooms, our obsession with online clothes shopping is filling up our landfill sites.

In an attempt to address the issue, fashion retailer ASOS detailed exactly what happens to their returns and the steps they take to ensure their products don’t end up in landfill.

A positive step forward for the online giant, yet it will take many other retailers following suit to effectively tackle this growing waste problem.

What does Amazon do with returned items?

Amazon logo on the company warehouse building located in Lyon, France on bright blue sky background with copy space.

One of the largest online retailers, Amazon, came under fire in the UK in 2021 after it was discovered that it was destroying millions of items of unsold stock every year.

These were items that were unwanted and unused, or had been returned by customers, yet had no plans of being resold.

Individual retailers pay an amount to Amazon to keep their stock in the warehouses, so when a product continues to go unsold, it is often cheaper to dispose of it – sometimes straight after it has left the production line.

Although Amazon denied that any of the destroyed items went to landfill in the UK, and insisted that they were correctly disposed of, this is still environmental wastage on a catastrophic scale.

What can I do with unwanted new items?

While it may be down to retailers to reconfigure their logistics and evaluate their environmental impact when it comes to returned items, there are a few steps that consumers can take when shopping online.

If you’ve found yourself with an unwanted new item, try out the below before you fill out that return form.

Regifting

The product may not be right for you, but perhaps it’s perfect for a friend or loved one with a birthday coming up. This also means you won’t be scrambling around for a last-minute present either.

Sell online

Receive your refund in a more eco-friendly way and sell your unwanted item online. Local selling groups like Gumtree, Nextdoor, and Facebook Marketplace are home to hundreds of miscellaneous items. Products that are proven to be new and in the box/with tags are always hot items too, often making close to the RRP.

Donate to charity

If the product was relatively cheap or you’re not too concerned with recuperating your pennies, donating your unwanted item to charity is a wonderful thing to do. New products sell for higher in charity shops, meaning more money for a great cause and a bargain for the savvy shopper too.

You could also see if a charity group or organisation needs your item. Your unwanted clothes or electrical items will be particularly valuable here, as well as craft products and toys for groups focused on younger children.

Buy returned goods for sale

A number of retailers now offer the option of purchasing returned goods, often at a discounted price compared to those fresh off the production line.

Places like Amazon and Wayfair both offer this service, testing their products to ensure quality before resale and indicating whether or not the box has been opened beforehand.

Not only does this save you money, but it also ensures the item is saved from potential landfill and reduces its carbon footprint.

How to shop sustainably online

Soap in Craft eco Gift box or present box with bow on gray background with mockup label tag.

It’s unrealistic to ask consumers to refrain from online shopping entirely, but there are ways to guarantee a more sustainable shop.

  • Only order what you need, and don’t indulge in multiple orders. If you’re unsure of a specific size or style, it’s best to go to a physical shop beforehand.
  • Choose retailers that offset their carbon emissions, use plastic-free packaging, and clearly outline their commitments to the environment.
  • Shop from independent retailers where possible.
  • If you do need to make a return, walk or get public transport to the physical store to do this – it reduces the carbon emissions used in fuel.

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